San Francisco best for parks, Fresno worst

Wed May 23, 2012 5:41am EDT

Two men look out over the San Francisco skyline from above Dolores Park, following a rain shower in San Francisco, California May 3, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Two men look out over the San Francisco skyline from above Dolores Park, following a rain shower in San Francisco, California May 3, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

(Reuters) - San Francisco has the best city park system in the United States, while its neighbour less than 200 miles away, Fresno, has the city parks most needing improvement, according to a new ranking of 40 local park systems released by the Trust for Public Land.

Using "the most comprehensive park rating system ever developed," the trust found that San Francisco has the highest score in terms of park access, size and services and investment.

Nearby Sacramento ranked second, while east coast metropolises Boston and New York tied for third, followed by Washington, D.C.

Altogether, cities on the coasts dominated the top 10. Parks in the west coast communities of Portland, Seattle and San Diego made the cut. And those in the east coast's Virginia Beach and Philadelphia also ranked highly.

The rating system looked at the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park, the proportion of local land dedicated to parks, and the number of playgrounds and spending per capita on systems.

Meanwhile, southern cities dominated the 10 park systems with the lowest scores. Charlotte came in after Fresno, followed by Louisville, Kentucky. Jacksonville and Memphis were also low ranked.

Arizona had two slots among the bottom 10 - for Tucson and Mesa - and Texas one - for San Antonio. Oklahoma City and Indianapolis rounded out the bottom 10.

Funding for local parks has dropped off since the recession hit local treasuries and voter's paychecks. According to the fund's database of ballot measures passed for land conservation, voters last year approved a total of $312.8 million for acquiring and protecting land, the smallest amount since 1991.

The trust, a land conservation group that focuses on state and local spaces, created the scoring system to help communities identify improvements for their park systems.

(Reporting By Lisa Lambert; editing by M.D. Golan)

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